Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Afro-Cuban, African-American Solidarity Movements and the Future of Cuba: An African-Centered Political Ecology Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Afro-Cuban, African-American Solidarity Movements and the Future of Cuba: An African-Centered Political Ecology Perspective

Article excerpt


Since the age of European exploration African diasporic communities have formed transnational linkages to negotiate and resist European cultural hegemony and economic exploitation. The relationship between Afro-Cubans and African-Americans is an outgrowth of this history. For over three centuries solidarity movements have endured, each characterized by problems peculiar to both the external and internal realities of Afro-Cubans and African-Americans.

With the death of Fidel Castro, the Obama administration's reversal of Cold War isolationist policies, and the ascendancy of the administration of Donald Trump, new conditions have materialized requiring a reassessment of previously held assumptions. This discussion seeks to consider the relevance of an African-centered political ecology to our understanding of contemporary Cuba and ideological tendencies that have historically shaped Afro-Cuban, African-American solidarity movements. It argues that ideological models that inform Afro-Cuban, African-American solidarity work are typically shaped by an urban bias which privileges urban centered, growth oriented socioeconomic values. Hence, an African centered political ecology perspective seeks to shift movement discourse toward the understanding that important linkages exist between racial inequality, economic inequality, and environmental degradation. These connections have profound implications for how we understand (1) the historical and contemporary problems of Afro-Cuban communities, (2) the successes and failures of the Cuban Revolution and its stated commitment to racial and economic justice, and (3) the impact of contemporary, U.S. foreign policy on Cuba. This discussion will unfold in four stages. First, we will delineate the core, theoretical assumptions of an African-centered political ecology. Second, we will explore the historical development of U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba, contextualizing the Obama administration's shift away from Cold War strategies. Third, we will analyze ideological tendencies that have historically shaped African-American, Afro-Cuban solidarity movements. Finally, we will consider the connections that exist between race, socioeconomic inequality, and the environment, and its implications for ideological clarity within African-American, Afro-Cuban solidarity work.

An African-Centered Political Ecology: Theoretical Considerations

Definitionally, an African-centered political ecology is a reformulation of ancient principles undergirding indigenous African societies that seeks to explore the historical development of African communities through an eco-philosophical lens. It attempts to expand the contours of Africana critical theory by demonstrating the salience of indigenous African socio-ecological praxis to our understanding of the contemporary problems of African people. Therefore, it contributes to a global dialogue over the need for human communities to refashion our relationship to the earth in an effort to create a sustainable future. African-centered political ecology has two broad concerns. The first is the degree to which communities of African descent have constructed paradigms of human development and liberation that reflect an urban bias. This influences how one understands the relationship between individuals and society, definitions of "freedom", conceptualizations of what socioeconomic institutions are appropriate, how society engages in the construction of the built environment, and how communities perceive and interact with nature.

The urban bias has its origins in the evolution of Western civilization, specifically modernity. It should not be confused simply with the notion of constructing densely populated areas most often called "cities" and "towns". It is a culturally defined development philosophy. The urban bias is characterized by "(1) an anthropocentric, secular perception of nature, (2) the hegemony of mass consumption and industrialization, (3) the devaluation of indigenous, rural knowledge, (4) mass rural to urban migration, and (5) the concentration of political and economic power within urban centers. …

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